In "Death of a Salesman", what were some of the things Willy tried to teach Biff as a boy?

Asked on by hutcha17

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gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

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Willy fails to instill a sense of integrity, responsibility, and determination in his son, Biff, as a boy. As was mentioned in the previous post, Willy teaches his son that the most important thing in life is to be "well-liked." Willy believes that his son can accomplish anything if he is simply well-liked. Willy fails to teach his son the importance of hard work and dedication, and teaches Biff to focus on his outward appearance and personality. Willy tells Biff, "Be liked and you will never want" (Miller 21). Willy also teaches Biff that it is not wrong to cheat or steal. Willy does not chastise his son for stealing a basketball and encourages Biff to cheat off of Bernard's test. Willy's terrible parenting skills doom Biff as an adult. Biff has no work ethic or moral compass because of the way he was raised. Biff grows up thinking that he will be successful simply because he is athletic and well-liked which is not true. 

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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Willie taught Biff a lot of things that didn't serve him well in life.  He taught him that being "well liked" was the most important thing, more important than real skills (like algebra).  When Biff's scholarship was on the line because his teacher dared fail him just because he couldn't pass the test, he went to Boston to find his father because he knew that the teacher would not be able to say no to a man like his Dad.  Unfortunately, what he found in Boston brought both their lives crashing down around them.

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